Old-School Card Room Marketing

Ultimate Poker

Why do poker rooms fail in this post-Black Friday landscape? Why do online sites think they can simply advertise their way to the top?

In my last article “Offer Promotions Poker Players Can’t Refuse” I stated that with creative ideas and the attendant hard work, it is possible to turn around casino card rooms in this current environment.

In this article I would like to expand upon that and add specific things any card room can do to be successful.

Nowadays you have to be like a politician and personally invite players to your gaming site or card room. Once you have the customers’ attention, then the real work begins.

Let’s take Ultimate Poker as an example and analyze what caused them to fail.

For any poker room to succeed, it must have a certain number of players and a variety of games available around the clock. Players need to know they can log on and get action any time of the day or night. Ultimate Poker could provide neither.

Even with Station Casinos marketing the Ultimate Poker website through its Nevada casinos, a $1 million marketing campaign and a marketing agreement with the UFC, Ultimate Poker folded in a year and a half.

I was really troubled by the failure of Ultimate Poker, which seemed almost impossible given all they had going for them. Could Ultimate Poker have bought the business? The answer is, “Absolutely. “

What Ultimate Poker failed to do was add a personal touch to their marketing and reach out to every poker player in Nevada making them an offer they could not refuse. All the marketing dollars in the world are not going to help if you don’t put in the sweat equity.

With all those marketing dollars, they could have instituted the following:

  1. Hire approximately one hundred affiliates with great incentives and communication programs to monitor what was working and what wasn’t.
  2. Hire over a thousand players with 80% rakeback. Build a great relationship with them, so they could help identify the site’s weak areas and have input on how best to promote the online site.
  3. Take some of your best customers to lunch and ask for their recommendations on ways to make the site and their player experience better.

You may say that sounds like a lot of work. Well, if you want to be successful, it requires a lot of hard work. You say this is old-school marketing, and to that I answer, “Nothing beats the personal touch.”

In California when they legalized hold’em, one casino dominated the gambling market. So how did number two overtake number one? Here’s how they did it.

The general manager at the time hired everyone who wanted a job. Over a hundred players were hired to promote the middle-limit games.

The GM knew that out of a hundred proposition players, or props as they were called, only ten percent could survive gambling. He hired friendly people who had friends.

The players who had reputations for providing lots of action would eventually go broke. His challenge was to keep finding and hiring players as very few could survive in a job gambling six to eight hours a day.

Did his plan work? Yes! This casino went to number one and has never looked back. It was an amazing marketing concept that I have used to turn around many casinos without one failure.

This is not a new concept in casino marketing. When I was in marketing at the MGM based out of the Beverly Hills office, it was my job simply to recruit players. The cost of acquisition was never an issue as long as the company had a shot to make money from the players.

For as long as I can remember, casinos have hired people to go out and find players. As old school as this may seem, it works. Translating this to the online world means offering incentives both to affiliates and directly to new players.

Remember when Party Poker had hundreds of affiliates that took them to number one? Everyone wanted to be part of the growth of the new online poker business. Many people worked their tails off, which led to Party Poker’s spectacular success.

It troubles me to see sites that had people promote them for years, but once they reach a certain level of success, they abandon those same people that brought them to the dance.

The concept is simple: All business is about people, but in gambling even more so. People want to be where the action is.

Once you create action, the promotions are just maintenance to keep your players happy. I had rather spend marketing dollars on people-to-people business than intangible concepts like analytics and data mining.

Call me old school; I’ll take it as a compliment.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and casino marketing expert. Robert is most well- known for introducing the game of Omaha poker to Nevada in 1982 and to California in 1986. He created Legends of Poker for the Bicycle Casino in 1995.

He also helped create Live at the Bike, the first live gaming site broadcast on the Internet in 2002. He has spent over 30 years in casino marketing and player development and has served as an executive host at the Bicycle Casino and MGM.

Find Robert on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thechipburner and on Twitter @thechipburner. He can also be reached at robertturnerpoker@gmail.com for consulting and teaching.


4 thoughts on “Old-School Card Room Marketing

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more Robert. I spent 30 plus years in Vegas poker, from brush to manager and found the push to reinvent the wheel very frustrating. Customer service, good promotions, and action. Build it, and they will stay. As a manager I was constantly fighting with the powers that be, to keep props, keep promotions that, although old, were still putting buns in the seats. The concept of tournaments, being of good structure and low cost, being there to drive live play, was like beating my head against the wall. They wanted more drop from them. Well, that”s what they got, a big drop in overall revenue. Poker player’s are a little more savvy, in my opinion, and resent being nickle and dimed to death. The magic combo was discovered long ago. I never could seem to get certain concepts, unique to poker, across. Being able to count on players to keep your game going 24/7 is invaluable and takes loyalty in tough times. Poker players are generally very loyal, however, I always thought of them as being a little like homing pigeons. If they are pushed to check out another room, (site) because their favorite offer has been taken away or they can’t get a game started, you’ve lost them to the room that’s waiting with what they want and a game when they want it. An Ironic aside to this is, the company I worked for, and fought with the most, about these very issues, was Stations. Great article, thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

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